A technique used by some mothers that involves covering babies delivered by cesarian in vaginal fluid directly after birth has been labelled ‘risky’ by experts who say the potential harm far outweighs the potential benefits.
To combat babies missing out on microbes from the birth canal after being born via C-section, an increasing number of mothers have been requesting a technique known as “seeding”.
Doctors said demand for the practice, also known as microbirthing, is rising, but current evidence suggests the potential benefits do not outweigh the risks.
When babies are born naturally, they are exposed to a range of beneficial bacteria while moving down the birth canal. But babies who are born by caesarean section are not exposed to this bacteria.
With seeding, mothers are requesting that their babies are covered in vaginal fluid immediately after a caesarean birth via a swab. The swab of fluid is applied to the baby’s mouth, face and body.
Parents hope the exposure to bacteria will boost their baby’s immune system, thereby preventing illness and disease in the future, such as asthma and allergies.
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A new article published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, saw experts review the only existing study on the practice.
The authors from the Danish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, noted that the study, which only involved four babies, was too small to draw any safety conclusions.
The research did, however, highlight the difficulty in determining healthy vaginal bacteria and the risk of passing on infections, such as HIV, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, Group B streptococci and Escherichia coli, from the mother to the baby.
They conclude that the process should not be recommended by health officials because the risks are still unknown.
Instead, health workers should advise mothers about other factors that are known to have a positive impact on the development of an infant’s colony of bacteria such as early skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and diet.
“It is clear that much more research is needed to understand if exposing babies born via caesarean section to vaginal bacteria soon after birth can lower their risk of developing chronic conditions later in life,” said Dr Tine Dalsgaard Clausen, a consultant obstetrician in Denmark and lead author of the article.
“Currently, there is no evidence to show that the potential long-term benefits of vaginal seeding outweigh the risks or costs associated.”